The day before Christmas Eve was a typical winter day: Dozens of kids careened down the sledding hills at Wanoga Sno-Park, screaming with excitement while parents snapped pictures.
But, starting on New Year's Day, there will be a new dimension added to the activities at the popular park: Fat bikes will officially be welcomed.
Increasingly over the past several years, riders of so-called "fat bikes"—mountains bikes with massive, monster truck-style tires—have rolled onto some of the favorite trails for Nordic skiers and snowmobilers throughout Central Oregon. But with the increasingly popularity, so has intensified the question where to put all the bikes and bikers.
Gary Meyer with the Central Oregon Trail Alliance (COTA) estimates there were around 150 fat bike riders in the area last year, up from approximately 30 just three years ago—roughly a five-fold growth spurt. Others put the number even higher, around 200 local riders.
But the sport has not been without turf wars. Just like snowmobilers and backcountry skiers, traveling at different speeds and with different attitudes, they occasionally quibble over who should be allowed on which trails. Riders of fat bikes are late-comers to the party—but are quickly working to figure out where their bikes can smoothly fit into the flow.
Most notably, a working group led by COTA came up with a viable solution: On January 1, it will open nine miles of singletrack snow trails branching out from Wanoga Sno-Park, specifically designated for Bend's booming new cyclist population.
"One of the big goals with these trails was to reduce conflict," Meyer says, sitting on a barstool in his kitchen. He has a wiry black-and-grey beard that hints at his outdoor lifestyle. Meyer says the trails are set to open in January for a two-month trial period to which the U.S. Forest Service agreed.
"What Gary's doing is great because it's gonna give us as fat bikers our own zone that we can ride in without creating any kind of conflict," says Mason Shannon with Bend Cyclery.
Zach Casper at Webcyclery underscores the need for specifying these trails for fat bikes. "I'd much rather be on a singletrack with a fat bike," says the avid cyclist and skier. "Riding a fat bike down a groomed Nordic trail is like riding a really cool road bike down a landing strip. It's so wide that it's boring. It's not a challenge." This year's Desert Orthopedics Great Nordeen race on January 31 has added a 15 k fat bike race, starting at Mt Bachelor and running to Wanoga Park.